Resources for the Discerning Collector: An Overview of New Numismatic Literature

Whether you are new to coin collecting, or have been at it for decades, a good library of reference books is essential. While there is an abundance of information online, there is no substitute for having your own numismatic library.

Whether you are new to coin collecting, or have been at it for decades, a good library of reference books is essential.  While there is an abundance of information online, there is no substitute for having your own numismatic library. Once you have decided to specialize in one or more specific series of classic or modern U.S. coins, you should consider acquiring the latest edition of Whitman Publishing’s Official Red Book guide books on those series. You may also want to read or consult a volume on a series you are thinking of collecting to help make that decision. If you are a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), you can even borrow these books from the ANA library. 

Known as “The Bower Series,” because they are mostly authored by Q. David Bowers, widely known as the “Dean of American Numismatics,” and the most prolific writer and researcher on coins of all time, the series now consists of two dozen volumes on the most widely collected American coin series. These books include not only comprehensive and updated pricing information, mintages and certified coin data, but also important historical background, grading and collecting tips, as well as market analysis. To prepare the literature, Bowers drew not only on his encyclopedic numismatic knowledge and well-over a half-century of experience in the field, but also on his extensive network of leading numismatic researchers, who provided their insights when he was preparing new or updated volumes.

Several new editions of some of the most popular books in this award-winning series have been released recently, including the third edition of the Guide Book of Lincoln Cents, which includes a new foreword by David W. Lange. As Whitman publisher Dennis Tucker notes, the series is unique in being simultaneously one of – if not the most – popular classic coins that debuted, like most other classic U.S. series, at the turn of the century, while also being one of the most popular modern series still issued today. As he adds, only Washington quarters can match the broad popularity of Lincoln cents.

David Lange, Director of Research at Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) and author of nine books on coins, notes in his foreword how his introduction to coins began by collecting Lincoln cents as a child. He also notes that the book is a treasure trove of everything you need to know about the series and how to collect it. In addition, Bowers provides the historical context for the series and for each individual coin, which is Bowers’ longstanding signature approach used in all the volumes of his Red Book series. Along the way to becoming well versed in your series of choice you will also learn a great deal about aspects of American history with which you may not have been familiar with before. It is that synergy between numismatics, history and economics that makes these books so useful.

This third edition of the book includes the market analysis for each date and mint mark, as well as all the other essential information from the previous edition, that was updated in the summer of 2018. The new volume also includes an appendix on the Citizen Coinage Advisory Committee’s 2009 review of the Shield reverse design, a snapshot of the market for Lincoln cents in 1946, and information on how to have a new die variety you discover listed in hobby publications.

2019 is a great time to collect this series with the release of the very first 2019-W cents included in the various 2019 U.S. Mint Proof sets. This book will help you to share the author’s passion for Lincoln cents and be the best-informed collector you can be.

The king of classic American coins, the mighty Morgan dollar, issued from 1878 to 1921, is one of the most extensively researched American coin series. Several major works about the series have been published over the years, reflecting its place at the very center of classic American coins. However, the single most accessible and useful reference on this series has to be Bowers’ Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars, whose sixth edition was published recently. This expanded and updated version of the most popular book on the series provides the collector of Morgans an engaging history of the large silver coin and of what was happening in the country when each coin was issued, along with a comprehensive market analysis of every coin in the series.

There are also chapters on the history of all silver dollars, the Morgan dollar design, the branch mints where they were struck, how they were made, die varieties, grading, ways to collect the series as well as Treasury hoards and accumulations that when released, resulted in major changes to surviving population data for many coins as well as their market values. A good example is the remarkable drop in price for the previously-rare 1901-O coin when bags of the coin were found in the 1960s, as Bowers recounts. The 2019 edition also includes a new appendix on the discovery in 2015 of dies, hubs and models for the 1964 Morgan dollar, as well as an appendix on counterfeit coins.

Another recent edition to the Bowers’ mini-library of guide books is the latest edition of the volume on Civil War tokens. Privately issued and distributed during from 1861 to 1864 during the Civil War, these tokens were created because of the scarcity of U.S. Mint issued cents during this period. This scarcity resulted from the widespread hoarding, first of silver and gold coins, and later, of copper ones too. They are about the size of a modern cent and 15,000 different varieties exist.

Until the 1960s the literature on these tokens was “still thinner than Abraham Lincoln and nowhere near as tall, though just as fascinating,” as publisher Dennis Tucker notes. When the early editions of the well-known Guide Book of United States Coins, widely known as the “Red Book,” were published starting in 1946, Civil War tokens were just briefly mentioned. Over the decades since then the field has continued thanks especially to the efforts of people like Mr. Bowers, other researchers, and the Civil War Token Society that was established in 1967, which is currently headed by Susan Trask.

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